Bhagat Singh no 'terrorist': RSS has sadly killed India's tradition

The freedom fighter's ideas are totally inimical to those of the Modi regime.

 |  7-minute read |   30-04-2016
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Two of the three news channels, which were reported to the Delhi Police by the government for telecasting fake videos on the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), were screaming two days ago that Bhagat Singh was called a terrorist by certain JNU historians. How dare they call "our national hero" a terrorist, they said.

Dinanath Batra of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), enthused by the success of his terror tactics during the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) regime, when he brought one of the biggest publishers in the world - Penguin - to its knees, getting thousands of copies of the world-renowned historian Wendy Doniger's book pulped, has now chosen another target for a possible pulping of a book from the same publisher.

This time around, his target is late professor Bipan Chandra and his colleagues Mridula and Aditya Mukherjee, Sucheta Mahajan and KN Panicker. Their crime: they called Bhagat Singh the revolutionary a terrorist.

For decades now, Chandra has been known to get Bhagat Singh into the focus of the national freedom struggle discourse, revealing the talent of the socialist revolutionary as a thinker at a very young age, bringing him at par with other national leaders or heroes of the freedom struggle.

Also read: If Bhagat Singh is a 'terrorist', India must rewrite all its history

It was his introduction to the late-1970s edition of Why I am an Atheist, which made Indian academia pay attention to Bhagat Singh the thinker. This was ignored till then despite memoirs of Bhagat Singh's comrades like Shiv Verma, Ajoy Ghosh, Rajaram Shastri, Sohan Singh Josh, Bejoy Kumar Sinha, Bhagwandas Mahaur and many more, who wrote about Bhagat Singh, the thinker, and how he was influenced by Marxism in detail.

Not only that, during his eight-year stint as the National Book Trust (NBT) chairman, despite few years of bad health, Chandra got Bhagat Singh's writings published in English, Hindi, Urdu, Punjabi, Gujarati and in many other languages, which no other government agency did before him.

During his term at the NBT, Chandra got a number of books published on revolutionary freedom fighters like Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, Kartar Singh Sarabha, Master Surya Sen and others, apart from hundred-plus books on the freedom struggle in general from most competent and eminent historians.

Chapter 20 of the book India's Struggle for Independence, co-authored by Chandra, is titled "Bhagat Singh, Surya Sen and the Revolutionary Terrorists". The book was published by Penguin for first time in 1988 and had gone through multiple editions since, as one of its most popular books, selling more than two lakh copies.

Also read: Why is Sangh now milking 'anti-nationals' like Bhagat Singh?

The book was translated in Hindi at the Delhi University and published by its "Hindi Implementation" publishing concern and was almost as popular as the English one, selling more than one lakh copies.

The book is recommended for reading for graduation and postgraduation in History by many universities and is one of most popular books for young IAS aspirants.

If there is any merit in Batra's argument, many of the current IAS officers have perhaps been "spoiled" by reading this book and now need to be scrutinised by the "nationalist" government for the "anti-national" thoughts that had entered their brains after reading such books to become an IAS.

Suddenly, after 28 years, it has come to the notice of a few news channels that such "anti-national" activity was going on, and they felt something had to be done. As they "fixed" "anti-national" students of JNU, they must now fix these historians of JNU as well. Incidentally, the book was a product of the Indian Council of Social Science Research (ICSSR) project and written after interviewing 1,500 freedom fighters, of course, none would have been from the RSS, as it had nothing to do with freedom struggle!

What exactly do 13 pages of this book tell readers about "terrorist" Bhagat Singh. Here are few quotes from this small chapter of the book:

"Bhagat Singh and BK Dutt were tried in the assembly case. Later Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev, Rajguru and tens of other revolutionaries were tried in series of famous conspiracy cases. Their fearless and defiant attitude in the courts -everyday they entered the court room shouting slogans 'Inquilab Zindabad', 'Down, Down with Imperialism', 'Long live the Proletariat' and singing songs such as 'Sarfaroshi ki tammana ab hamare dil mein hai' and 'Mera rang de basanti chola'...

"A voracious reader, he was one of the most well read of political leaders of the time. He had devoured books in the Dwarkadas Library at Lahore on socialism... his shirt pockets always bulged with books which he constantly offered to lend his comrades. After his arrest he transformed the jail into a veritable university. (Pages 254-255)

"Bhagat Singh became a household name in the land and many persons all over the country wept and refused to eat food, attend schools, or carry on their daily work, when they heard of his hanging in March 1931." (Page 249-250)

Again on page 255 - "Bhagat Singh had already, before his arrest in 1929, abandoned his belief in terrorism and individual heroic action. He had turned to Marxism and had come to believe that popular based mass movements alone could lead to a successful revolution."

Further on same page - "Moreover... he declared: 'Apparently I have acted like a terrorist. But I am not a terrorist... Let me announce with all the strength at my command, that I am not a terrorist and I never was, except perhaps in the beginning of my revolutionary career. And I am convinced that we can not gain anything through those methods."

Few shorter quotes - "Bhagat Singh also saw the importance of freeing people from the mental bondage of religion and superstition. (Page 258)

"Bhagat Singh was a great innovator in two areas of politics. Being fully and consciously secular, he understood more clearly than many of his contemporaries, the danger that communalism posed to the nation and national movement. He told his audiences that communalism was as big an enemy as colonialism." (Page 257)

And on Master Surya Sen, Chandra wrote, "Surya Sen, a brilliant and inspiring organiser, was an unpretentious, soft-spoken and transparently sincere person. Possessed of immense personal courage, he was deeply humane in his approach. He was fond of saying 'Humanism is a special virtue of a revolutionary'. He was also very fond of poetry, being a great admirer of Rabindranath Tagore and Kazi Nazrul Islam." (Page 251)

Chandra was held in high regard by all the comrades of Bhagat Singh and Surya Sen - Bejoy Kumar Sinha, whose son was a student of Chandra, Shiv Verma, Sohan Singh Josh, Kalpna Dutt Joshi and many others. Now neo "historians", or rather killers of history and myth makers of Hindutva wish to vilify a personality like Chandra, who is revered by freedom fighters.

The reason is simple, Chandra brought the true essence of revolutionaries like Bhagat Singh to the fore - his anti-communalism, anti-capitalism, anti-feudalism, anti-colonialism, his Marxism and socialism - which pinches traitors who have based their policies on communalism, and so they scream at the top of their voice, labelling the JNU historians as anti-national.

Incidentally, Chandra in his first Bhagat Singh Chair memorial lecture at the JNU in April 2011, clarified that using the term "revolutionary terrorism" was in the context of the movement led by the Congress' and it carried no denigration of the revolutionaries, and even Bhagat Singh himself used the term for himself and their movement. Yet he opined that "revolutionary nationalism" would had been a more appropriate term. Since Chandra is no more, his co-authors have already written to the Delhi University vice-chancellor and publisher Penguin that they wish to replace the word "terrorism" with "nationalism" but without touching the word "revolutionary".

Self-appointed and RSS-anointed "historians" like Batra, backed by an equally "illustrious" Union human resources development minister like Smriti Irani, wish to destroy Indian secular education system and historical traditions by using the name of Bhagat Singh, whose ideas are totally inimical to those of the Narendra Modi regime.


Chaman Lal Chaman Lal @profchaman

The author is a retired professor of Jawaharlal Nehru University and the author of Understanding Bhagat Singh.

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